The Earth flicked briefly into the terrible twos this month. After crossing the symbolic threshold of 1.5 C through September, the global thermometer spiked above the totemic 2 C for two days in November.
There’s nothing magic about round numbers but that one’s a doozy. For more than a decade, world leaders have solemnly pledged to keep temperatures below 2 C — a number that’s been recognized since the 1970s as the outer limit of “dangerous” interference with the climate system. Many countries, notably those most vulnerable, argue 2 C is much too high, and so in Paris, the world agreed to keep the heat “well below 2 C” and to try to stay below 1.5 C.
We should be clear that a couple of days doesn’t mean the global goal is dead. That would require a global temperature averaged over decades. Conveniently for the solemn signatories, we would be long beyond their terms in office, and solidly into the terrible twos before an official determination.
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